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Matthew McConaughey

Keys to Success, Making it in Hollywood, & Mastering Yourself

Make the most out of your life.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” And actor Denzel Washington said, “Goals on the road to achievement cannot be achieved without discipline and consistency.”

In whatever career you find yourself in, can you say with absolute certainty that you’ve been giving it your 100%?

And by 100%, I don’t mean hustling yourself into the ground. I mean working with discipline, purpose, consistency, and passion. I mean leaving behind a legacy of impact, love, and gratitude.

We all experience setbacks throughout our careers and even failures. Sometimes self-doubt creeps in and keeps us from pursuing our goals. But what matters most is how we grow from those experiences to make the most out of this life and who we are meant to be. And this doesn’t just apply to careers — it applies to the way we live our lives. When we are intentional about living out our values, serving others, and exuding positivity wherever we go, we make the world a better place.

My guest today is no stranger to achievement and discipline — he is one of the most well-known and accomplished actors in the world today and continues to find his voice through even more mediums! For today’s episode, I have Academy Award-winning Best Actor Matthew McConaughey here to share about his career in Hollywood, how he navigated self-doubt, and how to leave behind an impactful legacy. 

Who Is Matthew McConaughey?

Matthew McConaughey is an Academy Award-winning actor who has starred in several successful films, which I’m sure you have seen! Matthew graduated from the University of Texas at Austin and originally wanted to be a lawyer, but he got his first big break in acting with the 1993 film Dazed and Confused.

After his big break in acting, Matthew moved to Los Angeles, where he experienced even more fame and starred in productions such as Lone Star and A Time to Kill. In the 2000s, Hollywood began casting Matthew in several iconic romantic comedies, including The Wedding Planner with Jennifer Lopez and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days with Kate Hudson. Matthew continued to star in romantic comedies during the 2000s, but at the end of the decade, he decided to take a hiatus and shift the focus of his acting career away from rom-coms.

You may have seen Matthew star in films such as Mud, The Wolf of Wall Street, and the sci-fi thriller Interstellar, but did you know in addition to being a top actor, he’s an author as well? On October 20, 2020, Matthew released his memoir, Greenlights, that includes his classic outlaw wisdom, incredible stories from his career, and the truth about finding greater satisfaction in the midst of fame.

In our interview, Matthew shares some of the wisdom in his new book, Greenlights, opens up about his past, and even takes a moment to examine his life through the eyes of his 60-year-old self. I had such a great time talking with Matthew, and I can’t wait for you guys to listen to everything he has to say!

Values from Our Fathers

One of the most interesting stories from Matthew’s new book came from his experience living in Australia. He was just two weeks out of high school, and he went to live in Australia with a host family for a full year. During that time, he experienced a lot of anxiety and doubt about his identity — without a job, family or friends close by, or even a car to make him feel secure, Matthew began to doubt who he was. 

But then his host family asked him to call them “Mom and Pop,” and something clicked in Matthew’s brain — these people weren’t his real parents, so he couldn’t call them “Mom and Pop.” He refused, and the experience became one of Matthew’s first memories of asserting his own identity.

“That really helped with my sanity, to have that sort of something that was so clear to me, that was black and white. … It’s hard to find those things in life, in general.” – Matthew McConaughey

Matthew’s father had a HUGE influence on his life — he couldn’t simply call someone else “Pop!” Matthew inherited his strong sense of values from his father. Those values made him the man he is today.

That became especially clear when Matthew’s father passed away when he was just two days into shooting his first film ever, Dazed and Confused. I can really relate to Matthew — my father was in a massive car accident, and ever since he has just not been himself, and it’s been hard to maintain that emotional connection with him. I know what it’s like to basically lose a father, and at the same time, lose that emotional connection and that guiding light for developing my values. That’s why I was excited to ask Matthew about the values he’s inherited from his dad.

“What I can really speak to is that I manned-up when he moved on. … It was the beginning of understanding, what are the choices you make? … The choices we make [are] the compounding assets for our future. How do we be more true and kind to our future selves? How do we start making … choices that, by hook or by crook, they’re going to be brave, courageous choices that you can look in the mirror, if it works, and go, ‘Yup, I’m responsible,’ and if they don’t work, … ‘Yup, that’s on me.’” – Matthew McConaughey

Those values of integrity, responsibility, and bravery are incredible gifts Matthew received from his father. I want to acknowledge Matthew for consistently displaying those values in the way he lives his life — they’re definitely part of what makes him a great man.

How can you be more true and kind to your future self? How can you make brave choices and take responsibility for their consequences? It’s not always easy, but living life with that kind of integrity and honesty is honorable and inspiring.

Unbranding and Rebranding

That commitment to taking responsibility for his choices led Matthew to do something radical in the middle of his career — he totally walked away from Hollywood.

How many of you remember movies like How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, The Wedding Planner, and Failure to Launch? Those romantic comedies defined the genre, and for a while, they defined Matthew McConaughey’s movie career. Everyone in Hollywood knew him as “the rom-com guy,” running around on the beach with his shirt off. And those movies were fun, but eventually, Matthew realized that he’d been labeled. Suddenly, he only got offers to be in those types of movies, and he struggled to get work in films that held a wider interest for him.

“I was like, ‘Ah, I wish I could find some work that would challenge the vitality and … great drama I have in my own life.’ Those things weren’t coming to me. So, since they weren’t coming to me, I decided to stop what I was doing … [and] I moved down to Texas. You didn’t see me on the beach. You didn’t see me in the rom-com. You didn’t see me in the tabloids. … Then nothing came in for about ten months. … All of a sudden, I became a new, good idea — McConaughey for Killer Joe, Magic Mike, Mud, True Detective, Dallas Buyers. All of a sudden, I was a new, novel, good idea. Why? Because I’d unbranded.” – Matthew McConaughey

In the business and self-help spaces, we talk a lot about branding — it’s important to have a clear brand identity so that your clients or followers know who you are.

But sometimes, your personality identity changes. You grow and evolve, and your brand identity no longer embodies your authentic self. That’s okay! In fact, it’s wonderful to keep growing. But sometimes you just have to take a step back and disconnect from your old brand identity so that you can build a new one.

Who are you in your business? How are you showing up on social media? Have you spent time creating a specific brand voice that no longer matches your identity? That’s okay! Matthew McConaughey was once known as “the rom-com guy,” but now he’s known as an Oscar-winning dramatic actor. If you need to take time to unbrand and rebrand yourself, do it! You’ll be happier doing work that feels more authentic and fulfilling.

“Are you putting out something today in your resumé of life that is going to write your eulogy after you’re gone, which is going to introduce you forever?” @McConaughey  

Talk to Your Future Self

It’s no secret that Matthew McConaughey is a hero for a lot of people. There are countless young actors who look up to him, especially since he won the Academy Award for Best Actor for Dallas Buyers Club. But who is Matthew’s hero?

In his acceptance speech for that very award, Matthew mentioned that his hero is himself ten years in the future. So I had to ask: Matthew’s just turned 50 — what would his 60-year-old self say to his 50-year-old self today?

“Make sure you trust yourself. Make sure you did a good job at trusting yourself. But you know what? … You could even trust yourself more. You … maybe made some things a little too hard, maybe where you didn’t need to resist it. Just sit back and trust yourself.” – Matthew McConaughey

How often do we doubt ourselves? We second-guess our choices and drive ourselves crazy trying to anticipate the future. But the truth is, we can never know what’s going to happen. We can only know what we’re doing right now. The best we can do is trust ourselves and keep moving forward no matter what.

But that’s not all Matthew’s 60-year-old self had to say:

“My favorite thing about you, 50-year-old Matthew, is that you give a damn. Sometimes I wish you would’ve maybe given yourself a break in places where you didn’t. But you know what? That’s who you’ve always been. Shoot, now that I look in the mirror at 60, that’s still who I am, too. So anyway, thanks for getting me here to 60.” – Matthew McConaughey

Matthew McConaughey is a person who cares deeply about everything that he does. He cares about every role he plays — including the roles of “husband” and “father” in his family. He cares about his craft and creativity, and he strives to give his best performances. And now, he’s shown that he is a deeply thoughtful and careful writer with his book, Greenlights. That ability to care deeply is something that Matthew respects about himself, and it’s something I respect about him too.

Do you care deeply, or, in Matthew’s words, “give a damn?” What do you care about? It could be your family, a career, friendships, a charity you love, something else entirely, or all of the above. The key is to care. It’s to invest yourself in the things that matter most and choose to be present with them.

The Keys to Success

It would be hard to argue that Matthew McConaughey isn’t successful. Just look at his IMDb page — it’s full of hits. So of course I had to ask him how he defines success. Here’s what he said:

“Now look at the definition of success. If you go back in the original Webster’s Dictionary and read the definition of success, it is vastly different from the definition of success today. We have put … fame and money at the top of the ladder for what you need to … be successful. And if you’re successful, you have respect of peers because you’re famous, because you’ve got more money. … It’s out of order.” – Matthew McConaughey

Success isn’t about gaining money and fame so that you can gain respect from your peers. It’s about earning the respect of your peers through your work and by having integrity. Once you have that, you can wait for the respect and fame you deserve to come to you.

Instead of seeking the kind of backward “success” we see so popularized in our culture today, Matthew said we should be seeking relevance. And relevance goes back to that idea of unbranding and rebranding — how are you showing yourself to the world? Are you showing up with authenticity? Are you doing things in this present moment to work hard, make things you care about, and build others up, too? That’s what relevance is all about.

“We all want relevance. … I do, too. Relevance for what? That’s a question we’ve all got to ask ourselves. What do I want to be relevant for? I want to be famous because I made a sex tape? Well, … pretty sure you can get famous if you do that. Was that what you want to be famous for? Eh, … I’ll pass on that one.” – Matthew McConaughey

What do you want to be relevant for? What do you want people to think of when they hear your name?

Just to give you a quick illustration — take a look at Matthew’s Instagram bio. The first three words are: “Husband. Father. Actor.” I think that Matthew put those in a very specific order. He wants to be known for all three of those things, but he wants the world to recognize him as a good husband and a loving father first and as an actor second. That’s how he’s showing up on social media. That’s how he’s choosing to stay relevant.

Why You Should Listen to This Matthew McConaughey Podcast Episode Right Now…

Friends, this interview was incredible. I only had time to write about a few of the amazing things Matthew and I got to talk about here — he had so much wisdom to share! I learned so much about life, love, and success just from listening to him — I hope you’ll check out the full episode to hear the rest of what Matthew has to offer.

I also want to acknowledge Matthew McConaughey for the great person he is. I truly admire the significance he makes every single day. He shows up consistently for his family and in the work that he does, and he’s always fun-loving and real in his approach to life. Beyond his presence on screen, Matthew McConaughey is giving a lasting performance as a real human being, and I’m grateful I got the opportunity to hang out and talk with him.

Before I go, I really want to share both Matthew’s three truths and his definition of greatness. He has some fantastic answers that I’ve never heard before in over 1,000 interviews, and I think they’re both worth sharing here! Here are his three truths he wants to leave behind in his legacy:

“Value values. Make a sense of humor your default emotion. And remember that you will have thousands of crises in your life and most of them will never happen.” – Matthew McConaughey

And here’s his definition of greatness:

“I love ‘unanimous,’ and you know I love ‘perfection,’ even though I don’t think I’ll ever achieve them or that either are achievable in this life. Greatness is pursuing that. Staying in the race, committing to the chase to be your better self, be better families, communities, civilizations, and people. America’s promise … is opportunity and greatness. We’re not ever going to arrive — the topsy-turvy times we’re in right now, … we’re not going to come out of this and go, ‘Oh, now we’ve found perfect justice.’ No. But … we keep evolving. … And that’s greatness. It’s staying in the process of the chase.” – Matthew McConaughey

What incredible three truths and what a fantastic definition of greatness! I believe Matthew lives up to both.

Thank you guys so much for joining me today! Remember to pick up a copy of Matthew’s new book, Greenlights — it’s a fantastic memoir, and I know you’re going to want to read it cover-to-cover.

And remember to share this episode with your friends! Take a screenshot and post it to Instagram with your biggest takeaways from the episode. And don’t forget to tag Matthew, @officiallymcconaughey, and me, @lewishowes, so we can see what you loved and took from the interview.

Guys, this interview was so much fun — I know you’re going to enjoy listening to it! If you’re ready to learn the keys to success, making it in Hollywood, and mastering yourself, join me on Episode 1,022 with Matthew McConaughey!

To Greatness,

Lewis Howes - Signature

“If you’re overly impressed with me or I’m overly impressed with you, you and I can’t even have a real conversation because one of us is holding the other on a pedestal." @McConaughey  

Some Questions I Ask:

  • How do you deal with self-sabotage in times of great success?
  • Was there ever a time when you lost your sense of identity?
  • Why do we resist discomfort?
  • Why is it so hard for today’s youth to find identity, take responsibility, and develop values?
  • What would Matthew McConaughey in 10 years say about yourself today?
  • What do you admire most about your wife?

In this episode, you will learn:

  • The relationship between responsibility and freedom.
  • How Matthew McConaughey struggles with negative feedback.
  • How to be respectful while turning someone down.
  • What you want vs. what you need, and why they’re not as different as you might think.
  • How Matthew broke out of the rom-com box that Hollywood put him in.
  • His other career paths if acting hadn’t worked out.
  • Why you should think more about the comments you leave online.
  • Plus much more…

Show Notes:

Connect with
Matthew McConaughey

Transcript of this Episode

Music Credits:

Music Credit:

Kaibu by Killercats

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